From Publishers Weekly
Around the world, climate change is indicated by natural events-especially in shifting migration routes-leading to results familiar (species die-out) and unexpected-like the discovery of a heretofore unprecedented "pizzly," a bear cub with one polar parent and one grizzly. Not all geographical displacement is quite so friendly; as ""ecological niches are shriveling up and disappearing," common and persistent species are dying off at a rate "between 17 percent and 377 percent faster than normal" over the past 400 years. While reviewing the evidence that points to drastic changes resulting from even small global temperature increases, Barnosky also discusses biodiversity's importance, compares rates of evolutionary change with global temperatures, and recounts Earth's four previous mass extinctions. One of her grim assessments is that "many of the species that humans tend to like" will be wiped out by global warming, and spur helpful evolutionary diversification only in "what we normally call pests." For the most part Barnosky is less gloomy than curious, able and straight-forward, flavoring his report with a sense of adventure and possibility; by the end of his discussion on humanity's four-pronged problem-global warming, habitat loss, introduced species and population growth-Barnosky will have readers looking to do more than change lightbulbs.
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Barnosky uses a unique approach to address the problem of global warming. Rather than dwell on human factors, he offers a host of examples from the past to illustrate how animals of previous eras survived or failed to adapt. From the recent discovery of a grizzly/polar bear hybrid (a pizzly) to dead zones in the Pacific Ocean, he chronicles various irrefutable changes to earth’s climate. Chapters focusing on long-term studies at Kew Gardens and Yosemite Park make good use of research dating back to John Muir and other early naturalists. More contemporary discoveries involve wolf eradication and the successful reintroduction of this essential species in Yellowstone National Park, and the area’s fossil record, which reveals how the Yellowstone ecosystem responded to what was the most significant global warming event, prior to the current one, in the past 3,200 years. Wolves are more than a political topic, Barnosky proves, just as the Canadian pizzly is likely not an isolated phenomenon. In straightforward language, this sensible climate-change book presents solid evidence from earth’s deep history. --Colleen Mondor